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Catholic Bishops raise concerns at Press Conference


-        Abigail Seta


Port Moresby: Following a week-long Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Catholic Bishops have raised concerns and issues relating to their ministry as shepherds and pastors.


A press conference was held on Thursday, 2nd July, at which pressing issues were presented by the newly elected president of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Anton Bal, Archdiocese of Madang supported by sixteen other Bishops. 


“The primary mission of the Church is to help people to encounter the loving and saving person of the Lord Jesus. The Church is also concerned with the totality of the human person and their life in the world and therefore we have considered these issues,” stated Archbishop Anton Bal. 


According to the statement by the Bishops, the first point highlighted the joint decision of Catholic Church Health Services and Christian Health Services to stop work at health centres.


“The bishops came to the very difficult conclusion of endorsing the joint decision of the Catholic Church Health Services and Christian Health Services because the government has failed to pay health care personnel under these agencies for several months.”


They are urging the government as a matter of justice to reimburse the full amount owed to the nurses, so that they may continue their crucial work of caring for the sick and suffering. There was also a mention made by Bp Francis Meli about the operational grants due since 2017 for the medical schools run by the churches.


Bishop Anthon Bal said the Bishops are grateful for the measures being taken to safeguard the people of PNG from the threat of COVID-19. At the same time, the bishops urge the government to adhere to legitimate constitutional principles when instituting further measures. 


“We urge the government to adhere to legitimate constitutional principles when instituting further measures and that transparent accounting must also be made of all funds secured for the purpose of the COVID-19 mitigation and response.”


Another point stressed upon was the issue of violence. Abp Anton Bal stated that the church promotes the respect for human life at all stages and rejects all kinds of violence including domestic violence, sorcery accusation violence and tribal fighting. 


“The bishops join the wider society of PNG in their condemnation and horror at recent examples of brutality and violence toward women. These practices, which are all too common and often committed with impunity must cease,” he said. 


He also pointed out that the bishops are concerned that unscrupulous people are taking advantage of many people in our communities with illegal financial schemes and others who are lending money at exorbitant rates of interest. The Bishops are now calling on the appropriate government offices to investigate these matters and to prosecute those found guilty of these immoral practices which harm the poor above all.


The concern of asylum seekers and refugees was also raised at the Bishops AGM where they met with H.E. Jon Philp, High Commissioner of Australia to PNG and raised important issues regarding their welfare.

The concluding Eucharistic celebration held at 5pm on the 2nd July brings to a close, the 61st Annual General Meeting of the Bishops, which began two weeks ago. 

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